Emanuel's young staffers: Mike Simmons, from left, Ankur Thakkar, Caroline Weisser, Matt Fischler, Anna Valencia and Michael Faulman
Photo: Elizabeth Jochum
IT’S AN 80-DEGREE JULY NIGHT AND cicadas are buzzing in the trees. Weisser and I are standing in Union Park, watching the mayor’s office softball team, the Four Stars, warm up for a game against the governor’s team, the Quinners. Thakkar rides up to the field on his bike wearing the Four Stars’ jersey: their namesake four-starred Chicago flag on the front and a number five on the back, for the mayor’s floor in City Hall. After waiting in vain for more female players to arrive (they need at least two), the Four Stars have to forfeit and play for fun.
Thakkar takes the field with Derek Lindblom, chief of staff of the mayor’s economic council, and Jacob Ringer, chief of staff to the city’s chief financial officer. Thakkar misses a pop-up foul and laughs sheepishly. Lindblom grabs him on the shoulder to say it’s okay, before throwing a ball that flies high over Thakkar’s head at third base. “[That play] was really egregious,” Ringer teases Lindblom later.
The Four Stars are down by several runs. They get a few base hits, then Tom Alexander, assistant press secretary, hits a grand slam. In true mayoral fashion—an Emanuel mantra is “Don’t spike the ball on the 15-yard line”—the Four Stars keep up the pace, winning by four, even though the score doesn’t count. They smile briefly at one another, say their good-byes quickly and head home to rest up for another day at City Hall. It’s not so different from how Valencia describes wins in the mayor’s office: “Once we hit an accomplishment, get back to work because there’s more to get done.”